33 Lessons Learned About Life, Travel, Writing, Snowboarding, Dancing & Love

I turn 33 this week. I'm strangely happy with this for one major reason. When I was in primary school I did some little puzzle loosely related to maths (no doubt during a lesson that wasn't maths) and this involved my birth date and some other numbers and after a process of subtraction it concluded that my lucky number is 3. I am not in the least bit superstitious, but for some reason my sub-conscious has clung to those curves of the number 3 and I still look at it and see it as a number special to me.

So 33, which is made up of two 3s and is eleven times my lucky number, really can't be such a bad age for me, right?

To celebrate this birthday I've collated a list of 33 things I've learned about life, travel, writing, snowboarding, dancing, love and much, much more.

1. Your imagination is one of your best assets. Don't ignore it. Cultivate it, explore it, indulge it. 

2. Never stop creating. Even if it's just a crochet granny square or a A3 sized biro doodle, be creating something, always. I stopped for many years and I lost confidence, ideas and joy. I'm playing catch up.

3. It's well worth spending some time figuring out if you're an extrovert or an introvert. It's not about how outgoing you are, but about where you get your energy from. I made the mistake of thinking I was an extrovert for most of my life, but I now know I'm an introvert who needs precious time alone in order to recharge my batteries and feel myself again. This was one of the best lessons I've learned in recent years.

4. Put on music you love dancing to when cleaning. It makes it ten times more enjoyable and gets it over with quicker.

5. Remember who you were as a child. The chances are they were most in touch with what makes you happiest and can remind you of this. (Thank you seven-year-old me for writing your first book and for going to sleep every night making up stories in your head. I'm now putting all your ground work to good use!)

6. It took me more years and more tears to learn snowboarding than most people. But it was through snowboarding that I met the bloke I want to spend the rest of my life with. I'm sure there's a really deep philosophical lesson or note on serendipity to be considered in that, but for now I'll just stick with the words "Don't Give Up".

7. Some friends will come and go. Let them. 

8. Laughter is inextricably linked to love. I haven't figured out the exact connection yet but I know that both give me the kind of highs that will sustain me through the toughest of times.

9. Not all men are shit bags. In fact, most have wonderful souls and many have the potential to make you smile inside and out. Be open-minded but wise about which ones you invite into your life to do the latter. That's your choice, not theirs.

10. Travel is a wonderful part of life and should be pursued through journeys big and small. But it will not solve or magic away problems. If you're lucky it will go some way to soothe them, but it's up to you not the world to do the rest.

11. Couscous is not difficult to cook. Don't wait until you're 32 to try making your own. (Same goes for risotto, you wally Frankie.)

12. Listen to what somebody you're attracted to has to say. Don't just stare at how pretty they are. This will help you get through whatever happens next.

13. Just because you can dance to UK garage for five hours does not mean you can Zumba for 40 minutes without falling over your own feet.

14. Some friends will never want to leave you. Don't let them.

15. Make plans. Have goals. Let your ambition, hopes and dreams lead you. But get good at smiling and shrugging when life gets in the way and puts a stop to all the above.

16. You will never know how sexy you are to someone else. So stop trying to manipulate that.

17. Your body was designed to change, age, shrink and grow. Let it and love it for doing that even when you don't immediately like what that looks like.

18. It's possible to feel completely at home on the other side of the world surrounded by strangers.

19. It's possible to feel completely lost in the place you grew up surrounded by those who love you most.

20. Pad thais are delicious but at 1000+ calories probably shouldn't be eaten every day, though this didn't stop me when I lived in Thailand and probably won't in the future.

21. Snot freezes at below -20 degrees.

22. Dogs know the secret to living right: regular exercise, staying hungry and tirelessly looking for the good in people.

23. Dear 18-year-old Frankie, I'm so glad you're going to ignore the occasional funny looks and the times you will fall over on a dance floor, because by dancing your way through your twenties you will learn that there is pure happiness in the whole "dance like nobody's watching" mantra.

24. When you stop singing regularly your voice - like any muscle - actually gets worse. I'm glad I got that Grade 5 Singing when I did.

25. Hull is one of the most special places in the world. I was honoured to spend three years there as a student.

26. Yes, you came on your own, and that's how you'll leave, but there's no limit to the number of people you'll meet and have fun with in the interim.

27. Dutch is a really hard language to pronounce, but is not without it's charms thanks to the dimunitive "-je" and brilliantly comical expressions like "mierenneuken". (Google that one, though NSFW!).

28. Reading is one of only a few activities that has virtually no downsides. Read as much as you can. While you shouldn't dismiss the classics there's little to be gained from dwelling on those that you don't enjoy. Life is too short to read bad books. Read books that make you want to talk to somebody about them.

29. When it comes to travel sickness, the drugs really do work.

30. It is possible to give up alcohol for a monthbut be prepared for that month to prove to you that you can't blame the booze for your moodiness or your bad skin,

31. Patience is truly a virtue whether you're waiting on a delayed flight at a departure gate or working towards your goal of making a living from writing books.

32. If you ever sit down to write fiction, be prepared for some stories to be 100% made up (Keep the ChangeThe Flowers Sleep Tonight, Angel, Scorpion, Routines, The Ghosts of London Underground) and for others to contain the most surprising fragments of truth (Shy FeetHomes from HomeThe Lost Children of Gatwick AirportThe Wizard of Elephant & Castle and Together, Apart) a fact you'll only realise months after having finished and published them.

33. Never, ever, ever for one second think you know it all. That's when life gets boring.

(Photos of me taking pictures and looking windswept in Cape Point National Park near Cape Town in South Africa)

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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